The Sport Coat
Back in 1972 I worked at Ralph & Gaskill’s Men’s Store in Salisbury. From when I started there in 1968 I learned a lot about merchandising and the operation of a retail store. I eventually became the manager of and buyer for the Stag Shop. This was located on the second floor of the downtown store and catered to the teen crowd. I developed a good following of both boys and girls. Realizing that a boy’s size 16 would fit a girl that usually wore a size 7, I pointed out that the boys shirts were only $7 and were made much better, if they didn’t mind having to button them the opposite of what they were used to. The same held true with the very poplar jeans of the era. A simple tuck at the waist of a pair of 29-29 jeans and you had a perfect size 7.
The days of the Stag Shop ended when the new Mall was built on Civic Avenue. It also ended my dream job. I lost my manager’s position and became a salesman on the floor at the Mall. Two big differences were the hours were much different and so was the pay ($1.00 an hour plus 6% commission). Being a commission salesman was not what I envisioned for my future. Being the “young guy”, they would put me at the front of the store where I only had a chance to sell socks and underwear. The big ticket items, such as suits and sport coats were in the back.
Well, we had moved the entire Stag Shop inventory to the Mall so I was very familiar with it, since I had bought it in the first place.
One night, this smallish man came in and wanted a sport coat. He didn’t look very impressive but I decided to give him my best effort. There was a nice wool sport coat that had been in inventory for about four years but, since it came from the Stag Shop, it was a size 36 and cut a bit smaller than a regular men’s cut. I tried it on him and it fit perfectly. He said it was fine and that was what he wanted. So, I took the coat up to the counter and asked the man if it would be a cash or credit transaction. He said he would have to take it home to get his wife’s approval and he would let me know. I explained that I couldn’t just let him have the coat and he said “Clem (Mr. Gaskill) always let him take something home for his wife’s approval”. I figured if he knew Mr. Gaskill he must be O.K. to charge. After all, the coat had been marked down to only $28.00, so I wouldn’t be taking that much of a risk. I told him that it was all right for him to take it home for her approval, but I would need a name to keep track of the coat. When he told me it was A. W. Perdue, I nearly died. He could have afforded anything in the store and I sold him the least expensive sport coat we had. But he looked good in it and it fit him great. At least I got that satisfaction. Needless to say, his wife liked the coat and he kept it. A small sale, but better than the guy I spent two hours with and dragged out about $250.00 worth of merchandise before the office said his credit was kaput and I had to put everything back. That was retailing – good days and bad days.